Winter Time Is Worst For Sleep Apnea Sufferers

A new study has concluded what most sufferers of sleep apnea know already – that their symptoms get much worse during the winter months.  The study, conducted by Cristiane Maria Cassol of the Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul, followed over 7,000 patients with sleep apnea over 10 years to find out how seasonal changes affect the way people breathe during sleep.

The “breathing events” of patients were monitored using a range of different factors, including temperature and humidity.  Those patients who were measured during the colder months experienced more “events” where they stopped breathing – 18 times an hour – as opposed to those measured in summer – 15 times an hour.  Critically, it was also found that the most severe cases, or those patients who stopped breathing over 30 times an hour, were also measured during the colder months.

The study’s researchers believe that a combination of seasonal factors may affect the severity of the condition.  These include:

  • Weight gain during winter
  • Allergies and sensitivities to changes in the environment such as wood burning fires
  • Upper respiratory-related illnesses

So what does this for sleep apnea sufferers?  Well, strap yourself in and get ready for a bumpier ride in winter.  The best thing to do is to avoid getting a cold or flu, or any kind of chest infection and try to keep exercising and eating well over those colder months to keep your weight down.  If you’re an asthmatic or sensitive to allergies, stick to your medication and try to avoid situations where you’ll be exposed to nasties like wood smoke.

New Research On Cardiac Death and Sleep Apnea Risks

As if the problems associated with sleep apnea weren’t serious enough, a new research study has just concluded that people with the condition may face an increased risk of sudden cardiac death. The long-term study, conducted by Dr Apoor Gami from the Midwest Heart Specialists Group in Illinois (and funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health), followed over 10,000 men and women with diagnosed sleep apnea for 15 years.

The results strongly indicate that having obstructive sleep apnea (“OSA”) can greatly increase your risk of what they call sudden cardiac death – that is when your heart’s electrical functions are disrupted and blood stops being pumped around your body. It can be fatal unless emergency treatment is begun soon after symptoms occur.  This bad news is, cardiac death is just one of many sleep apnea risks that researchers are looking into.

The study also found that if you have sleep apnea, your risk of suffering sudden cardiac death is greatest when:

  • You are 60 years old or over
  • Have low blood oxygen levels
  • Have 20 or more episodes of apnea every hour

Interestingly, the study didn’t look into whether receiving treatment for sleep apnea such as a CPAP machine would reduce the risk of cardiac death, although when asked Dr Gami suggested that it might be reasonable to conclude as much.

Sleep Apnea

Do you struggle to sleep well? Do you have trouble remembering the last time you woke up feeling refreshed from sleep, or is your snoring driving your partner crazy – or worse, driving them out of the bedroom altogether?

You might be one of the estimated 12 to 18 million people – in the US alone! – who suffer from a chronic sleep disorder such as sleep apnea. You’ve probably heard the term, or maybe even know someone who has been diagnosed with the condition. But what is it exactly? According to the National Center on Sleep Disorders Research (NCSDR), sleep apnea is a condition in which you experience breathing “pauses” when you sleep. These can last between just a few seconds, to a terrifying few minutes (try holding your breath for a few minutes and you’ll understand why this is a scary idea). After such an event your body’s natural instinct to keep you alive will kick in, meaning you’ll take a breath, but it might sound more like a choking sound.

Symptoms can vary between people, and you can be diagnosed from mild to very severe sleep apnea. However there are a number of general symptoms that doctors keep an eye out for when considering a sleep apnea diagnosis. Continue reading